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The spirit of Fela Kuti thrives with Afrobeat band Antibalas



Unlike the sprawling traditions of jazz, funk or soul, Afrobeat can be definitively sourced to the voice and mind of one man: Fela Kuti.

Kuti infused pointed political protest with a vibrant rhythm core to create a constantly evolving sound that continues to find small but devoted audiences worldwide.

One such outpost was Brooklyn, where in the '90s Martin Perna founded Antibalas. The group now serves as musical advisers for the Broadway hit "Fela!," based on Kuti's life.

The group is celebrating the recent release of "Antibalas," its fifth studio album, with a free show at Williamsburg Park on Saturday.
amNY spoke with Perna.

Afrobeat seems more visible than in years past. What do you think is feeding into that? I feel like it's a music whose time has come. Even though it sounds cliché, I think now in this global, interconnected world, people are beginning to understand ... what the music is, and how it came to exist.

How does the success of "Fela!" impact the group? I don't think we have any false sense of hope because of the involvement with the "Fela!" musical, but in the same sense, knowing we're going to go out on the road and there's a couple hundred thousand people who've come across articles and are at least a little bit more familiar to who Fela was, is [reassuring], whereas before, it was just foreign.

What adjustments did you make when recording "Antibalas"? We went into the studio thinking a lot more about arrangements and form, and also looking at the traditional recorded version of Afrobeat.

If you go: Antibalas will be at Williamsburg Park, playing with Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, at 5 p.m. on Saturday, North 12th St. and Kent Ave., Williamsburg, FREE. 

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